Diplomatic efforts intensify to free captives held by Hamas

AFP , Tuesday 17 Oct 2023

Diplomatic bids to free around 200 captives held by Hamas in Gaza gathered pace Tuesday, with Turkey saying it was in talks with the Islamist group to secure their release.

Turkish FM
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan spoke from Beirut as captives families called for world leaders to intervene. AP


Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan spoke from Beirut as calls mounted from the captives' families for world leaders to intervene, after Hamas on Monday released the first video of a person purportedly speaking from captivity.

"So far, we have received requests from various countries for the release of their citizens. As a result, we started to discuss these issues, especially with the political wing of Hamas," Fidan told a news conference in Beirut alongside his Lebanese counterpart, Abdallah Bou Habib.

Scores of people were captured during Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7, when Palestinian militants killed more than 1,400 people.

Israel has since carried out a grisly retaliation, with round-the-clock air strikes that have killed around 3,000 people in the Gaza Strip. Children and senior citizens account for 60 percent of casualties, Palestinian health ministry figures say.

For the tenth day, the Israeli army has maintained a complete siege on the Palestinian enclave that has stopped water, food and electricity from reaching about 2.3 million Palestinians.

The Israeli army has confirmed at least 199 captives were taken to Gaza. Hamas had claimed that they hold around 250 in captivity.

"Our efforts continue, especially for the release of foreigners, civilians and children. We will continue our efforts to ensure lasting peace," Fidan said Tuesday, a day after he held a phone conversation with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh about the hostages.

'Beg the world'

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday also said that intense talks were underway to secure the captives' release.

"I want to be very cautious here... so as not to endanger the intense talks we are currently conducting," Macron told reporters in the Albanian capital Tirana. "But they are progressing and we are following these talks hour by hour."

France was "working with its partners to free French hostages held by Hamas", the Elysee presidential palace later quoted Macron as saying.

Macron spoke after the mother of French-Israeli captive Mia Shem, urged world leaders to secure her daughter's release after the Islamists aired a video apparently showing the young woman in captivity.

Hamas aired the video on its official Telegram channel, showing a young woman speaking Hebrew.

In the video, the woman says she is being held in Gaza, is being well treated and appeals for her release.

'Colossal' failure

Shem said her daughter was at a rave party in the desert near the border when she was captured and taken to Gaza during the October 7 Hamas attack.

The Israeli government has come under criticism for its response to the captives’ situation.

Since the attack, dozens of Israelis have tirelessly held sit-ins in front of the defence ministry in Tel Aviv to demand the release of the captives and the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"All these people (the hostages) must come home. This government has failed in a colossal way," said Mona Hanoch, 58.

Nearby, sitting on a plastic chair, Cindy Cohen, 65, held up a sign reading: "Prisoner exchange agreement now."

"We must release all the hostages in exchange for all the (Palestinian) prisoners held by Israel," she added.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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